Home > Beer, Uncategorized > Going Solo: Leeds Brewery’s Single Hop Range

Going Solo: Leeds Brewery’s Single Hop Range

Whilst some of us are able to swan off to Copenhagen to enjoy 19 single-hopped beers at the Mikkeller bar, I find myself more firmly rooted to the ground in Leeds crying into my parkin as my shivering whippet empathically pines alongside me.  Still, there are some compensations for the wan, potbellied Yorkshire-based salaryman, as we’re currently enjoying our own homegrown single hop event.

As Jerry notes, single hops are so hot right now.  Mikkeller did their first range of single-hopped IPAs a while ago and a lot of other breweries have done similar things.  Most notable in recent months is BrewDog’s IPA Is Dead release.  As I mentioned at the time, I’m very much in favour of this type of thing as it serves to interest and educate the budding beer geek who doesn’t know quite enough about brewing (i.e. me and presumably a few others, but mainly me).

Leeds Brewery’s single-hopped range is called “So1o” and each of the four beers is brewed on the small brewkit on the premises in The Brewery Tap, near the entrance to Leeds station.  They’ve brewed four identical beers but for the hops used. However, as the base beer, rather than using a 7.5% strong IPA like IPA Is Dead, instead they’ve gone for a light 4% session pale which would fit into their range more coherently.

I started with the Sorachi Ace, the Japanese hop which had produced an intriguing and divisive IPA in the BrewDog release, with pepper, herbs and lemon cheescake amongst the multitude of tastes it was compared to. By contrast this beer had a delicate aroma. It was a light lime cordial smell, subtle but fresh rather than bready. This carried through to quite a light taste and bitterness in with the relatively full creamy mouthfeel which characterises most Leeds beers.

Northdown is an English hop apparently often used in stouts, although I’m not familiar with it specifically. The beer had very little nose and initially little in the taste. The beer was quite cold however and as it warmed I noticed a subtle traditional English bitterness and also a very slight plastic/bubblegum undercurrent. The aftertaste was satisfyingly bitter and rounded in the style of an English pale ale.

I thought I knew what to expect from Cascade and I usually really enjoy the astringent grapefruity bitterness. This beer had a little grapefruit in the smell although it did seem more like watered down grapefruit juice than the fresh stuff. This mildness carried through to the taste and aftertaste which, whilst refreshing, didn’t really make the best use of what can be a spiky, interesting hop that makes you sit up and pay attention.

Hallertau Mittelfrüh is a traditional German lager hop. The beer had a fresh herbal to grassy nose and a nice lagery bitterness on the swallow. Being a relatively low ABV beer which was less strongly hopped than an IPA, I thought this worked really quite well, showcasing the hop bitterness to a much better extent than lagers usually allow for.

We’re being asked to vote for the hop that makes it into the regular range, and I duly filled in my card, deciding to opt for the Hallertau. The Cascade and Sorachi Ace are both nice hops and made for pleasant beers, but I wanted them to be more forthright than they were. Northdown was fine if lacking in aroma, but didn’t produce a beer that was different enough to Leeds Brewery’s usual range. The Hallertau beer simply made the best use of the hop.

I tend to think of Leeds Brewery as being cautious and playing to a mainstream audience. Their core range (Pale, Best, Midnight Bell) is fine but of those I’ve personally found only the last to be both consistent and interesting. Their ambitions to step into Tetley’s shoes are quite clear in the upcoming events around the time of Carlsberg’s sad closure of the site as reported by Leigh.

However things like the So1o range (including the willingness to enter into a dialogue with their customers on what they think of them) and their recent Gyle 479 suggest that Leeds Brewery are branching out and doing more experimental things. This might start to get people genuinely interested in and talking about their beers, even if they’re not going to be at the front end of innovation, capturing headlines with offal beers or 55% eisbocks. It’s fine winning the loyalty of the mild and bitter drinkers of West Yorkshire who want a default beer to have time and time again, but let’s keep some spice in the relationship, eh?

  1. April 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I like this phrase: wan, potbellied Yorkshire-based salaryman. A lot. Interesting post too, will have to try and get down to the Tap over the weekend and check them out.

    • April 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      Cheers, it’s increasingly accurate though.

      They’re good summer session beers, I think, so should be good for a warm weekend. It’s a shame The Brewery Tap isn’t really an ideal place to be on a hot day.

  2. April 21, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Nice post. I love the branding on these and I like how they put them all on together as a comparison – it’s really interesting from a drinking point of view. It’s also cool for non-geeks, I think, as it introduces the drinkers to the different ingredients in beer and how they play a part.

    • April 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      Yeah, it’s very positive. However when I try to tell most people about hops they zone out. Usually a bit of silence and then “…I just like pale beers…”.

  3. April 21, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I agree this is a good move for the brewery. It actually highlights to non-beer geeks what hops are and how they can effect flavour, IPA is Dead for beginners perhaps?

    Leeds Brewery do have a terrible habit of playing it safe but they want to appeal to the masses and have dug themselves a massive stronghold in leeds. I also think they could make abigger deal of interesting limited edition beers such as the Gyle 479, I only knew about through a food blog i read. He said he saw it in the fridge and gave it a go. Why are they not broadcasting the release of more cutting edge beers like this to beer lovers at large? Drum up interest and boost drinking amongst beery opinion leaders.

    If they stick to focussing on the casual drinker then they may find another brewery sweeps in and steals them away…

    • April 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      “Why are they not broadcasting the release of more cutting edge beers like this to beer lovers at large? Drum up interest and boost drinking amongst beery opinion leaders.”

      Admit it Neil, you’re angling for some free beer! Joking aside, Leigh’s pretty good at spreading the word about what’s going on with Leeds Brewery and I tend to find anything out through his posts.

      Although I think that two things would help them get noticed more generally: as well as brewing more interesting beers, they could be bottling more. It’s difficult to build a wide reputation over a large area without bottled beers, which they seem to be cutting down on. I’m hopeful, for example, that Summer Wine’s bottling plans will get them more of the attention that their excellent beers deserve.

  4. April 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I’m just glad to see Leeds doing more with the kit upstairs and branching out – they’ve been relying on the core range for too long now.

  5. April 22, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Great to see Leeds using the kit at the Brewery Tap.

    I wouldn’t expect them to be in a position to bottle much more as their capacity is probably reached on their cask ale and they’ve done something remarkable in building their business on getting great, consistent beers to pubs across Leeds, Yorkshire and the UK.

    Playing it safe is probably exactly what has got them where they are – beers for pub goers. That said, I’m all for variety and the kit at The Brewery Tap is the place to experiment!

  1. November 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm

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